Ron Cherry: Tri-Five Guy’s ‘56 Nomad
Special to The Union
Tri-fives, or ‘55 to ‘57 Chevys, have a large and loyal following.
But few can claim to have been faithful for as long as Kerry Anderson. His passion began when he was a teenager. At 16 years old, he bought his first ‘55 Chevy. In the next few years, he bought and sold several ‘55 and ‘56 Chevys, including a Nomad.
“I wish I still had that one,” Kerry said. “But everybody had one of those, the one that got away.” He continued to buy and sell cars, often fixing them up to get a good profit, for a number of years, but stopped doing so in his 30’s because of family and work.
About 12 years ago, Kerry relapsed and started buying Tri-fives again. He bought cars in need of a rebuild and did a complete makeover. On an average, it would take him about a year and a half to completely go through a car.
“I just enjoy fixing them up, then sell them,” Kerry said. “That’s how I can finance the next car.”
In 2006, Kerry found a ‘56 Nomad for sale in Chico. The car was “in pieces,” with rear end damage and a primer paint job. It had a little rust in the floor pans, “Like they all do,” Kerry said, “but no body rust.” It even still had the original 265 CID engine, which did run, but “not very well.” But Nomads are rare and highly desirable and Kerry, with the experience he had with similar cars, was willing to take on the project.
The first thing was a heart transplant, changing the engine. Kerry opted for an LS-1, a high-performance Generation III small-block Chevy engine.
“I’d used them in cars I’d done before,” Kerry said. “I loved the way they ran and drove.”
He dropped in a 4L60E auto trans with an overdrive and matched it to a Chevy 12-bolt rearend. He kept the suspension “reasonably stock,” but lowered the front end 2”. For steering, Kerry went with a 500 Series quick-ratio box with power assist. He decided to shorten a Chevy van tilt column to mate with it.
“That was a mistake,” he said. “I’ll never do that again. Too much work. It’s easier to buy a ready-made one.” For stopping, he installed four-wheel power disc brakes. For wheels, he opted for American Hopster mags.
Kerry kept the body stock and did all the body work himself, including replacing the rusty floor panels. He decided to paint it Matador Red and Dune Beige, original 1956 colors, and had a local paint company mix the colors to original factory specs. After he shot the paint himself, he was not pleased.
“The Matador Red did not turn out as bright as it should be,” he said with a sigh. “But there’s no turning back after you paint it.” Although he had all the chrome pieces either rechromed or replaced, he polished out all the stainless steel trim himself. “It took two weeks to do,” he said. “There are 72 pieces, including the interior.” Counting each piece as he did it must have eased the tedium of the work.
For the interior, he kept the stock seats and bought a kit from C.A.R.S, Inc., doing the installation himself. He replaced all the gauges with Classic Gauges. For comfort, he installed a Vintage Air system.
Now that the Nomad is finished, it should be on the block to pay for the next project, but it’s not.
“I’m keeping the Nomad,” Kerry said. “There’s something about this one. It’s great for cruising. I get about 24 or 25 MPG. My wife, Sue, likes it too.” They have taken it on cruises to a number of car shows in NorCal as well as Hot August Nights in Reno.
The Nomad is the fifth Tri-five Kerry has done in the last 12 years, but it may be a new pattern, keeping rather than selling. He’s just finishing another car, a ‘55 Chevy post (two-door sedan) with an LS-3 high-po crate engine that pumps out 525 HP and a Tremac 5-speed manual trans with overdrive.
“I’m probably keeping it, too. It’s not as nice to drive as the Nomad,” Kerry said. “More of a hot rod.” But it is another Tri-five.
Ron Cherry’s three books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His latest Celtic saga will be out by Christmas. For more about his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com.
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